I have just come back from the Garden with a handful of herbs to flavour my supper, after having a cheeky sit down on Bella’s bench to soak up the autumn sunshine. I’m not going to lie, saying goodbye at the end of this month to my day-to-day involvement with this fab space and its amazing people feels rather emotional after all this time.
I’ve just looked up the dates and I can’t believe that I’ve been a part of PLANT since February 2014! That’s a little bit after PLANT formed as a group, but before we saw the Community Garden appear on the map. I still remember joining in at a committee meeting at the Harbour Café to see what it was all about, putting my hand up, and offering to help out a little with Facebook. That very part-time volunteering quickly escalated – to giving a hand with the growing and events, becoming a member of the committee, setting up the website and community blog, and fundraising. I was very fortunate to be able to step into a part-time paid role in 2016, but that grew to a full-time position by 2019 supporting the development and delivery of digital storytelling, climate know-how, and engagement strands of our work.
I wanted to take some time to relish and share my favourite memories from the years I spent with PLANT, so I wrote this wee blog about our journey together. Thank you for having me and growing with me.
Below are my favourite memories.
It was so exciting to be able to build our digital spaces from scratch and to do it together with contributions from a whole team of our volunteer digital storytellers! Here I am in 2016 at the Harbour Café doing a consultation about what topics people would like to see covered in our community blog, when it was still a twinkle in my eye…. From this humble beginning we have built a veritable digital storytelling empire, with a YouTube channel, a podcast, and audio walking tours.
The moment of celebration in 2015, after we heard that we got our funding from Scottish Government’s Climate Challenge Fund to get the Community Garden growing. It took such a long time to find the space and so much hard work from everyone to put this first application together. But really, none of it would have happened and continued without Jessie’s quiet persistence, and her unique talent for gently bringing people together, and fuelling them with cake, soup and endless cups of tea around her kitchen table. This will always remain my inspiration.
All the citizen science activities I led in the Garden to foster everyone’s connection to our nature and food, from Big Garden Birdwatch in January to Butterfly counts in August. Our kids’ groups and primary school visits were particularly fun. It was very hard to pick one single picture for this one! I think one of my favourites was watching pollinators together and everyone’s aha moments when they realised that there are so many more kinds than the honey bees. Bumblebees have become my personal favourite.
Coming together for celebrations – from infamous Fruitfests to a proper volunteer knees up. And Margaret’s bottomless shed of garden games and party equipment together with her super event organiser talents.
Much of my work was based at the computer or away from the growing spaces, but I could always count on a good chat and a laugh when I popped in at the Garden. Jenny and Peter were particularly prone to a rude vegetable joke at the harvest time…always a crowd pleaser!
Facilitating the first group through their Carbon Conversations workshop series. I learned so much through running this, and through the other group conversation-based work I’ve done since. Not just about the nitty gritty of shrinking individual carbon footprints, but also the power of people coming together to support each other learning the difficult realities of climate crisis and taking action to make a difference. It was not all talk – the impressive carbon emission savings from participant’s lifestyle changes exceeded anything we ever managed from growing food locally at the Garden! This has made me believe that we can make a real difference from the grassroots level. I am so excited to be able to support this approach nationally in my new position as Climate for Change lead with SCCAN starting next month.
Watching Kathleen being awarded The CCF Climate Hero Award for her achievements in communication about climate change. This recognised her contributions to the community blog where she reflected on changes to her own lifestyle after taking part in Carbon Conversations, and helping with Peter’s gardening videos. And all this with no prior experience of digital media! Since, she’s also helped with PLANT Voices podcast, and has now moved onto writing climate fiction, imagining a future worth fighting for.
Kathleen is just one of the community digital storytellers I’ve supported in sharing their own stories and that of PLANT in our journey to face and fight the climate crisis.
This amazing team, aged 7 to 70, kept our community blog vibrant, diverse and growing! Along with Kathleen, Cathy also deserves a shout out as the most prolific contributor. Cathy enjoyed blogging so much, she set up her own website a couple of years ago. But, I have to say that contributions from the youngsters were often the most fun, such as when we made the ‘Incredible Shrinking Footprint’ video above.
Various community meet ups where I learned about and connected with other community groups from across Scotland involved in doing amazing work in climate action at. One of the most inspiring of these was always the annual Climate Challenge Fund gathering. This is a selfie with Helena and Jessie, who co-facilitated Carbon Conversations with me. They have both been an absolute pleasure to work with.
Discovering that Peter, our community gardener, was a natural on camera… This meant we could beam gardening advice straight from the Garden to our YouTube channel… and then we discovered that Kathleen was a natural at grilling him for gardening tips! They made for a perfectly informative duo!
Starting our very own PLANT Voices podcast with training from SCCAN and funding from CCF. Being able to share the inspiring conversations with people doing amazing things locally has been such a privilege. I think my favourite episode was ‘Tales of Love from Tenstmuir” which explored our growing connection with the forest under lockdown and how the place may be affected by climate change.
Organising and supporting the online gardening workshop series, which kept us growing under covid-19 lockdown, was a great moment of improvisation and coming together in the face of emergency. Working with my colleagues across the local network of community gardeners to deliver this was such a blast, and it seemed to hit the spot with our audience too! You can see all the videos in the collection of gardening workshop summaries. We had Helena from Ninewells Community Garden, Andrea from Edible Campus St Andrews, Bob from Strathkinness Community Garden, Kate from Dundee and of course Peter from PLANT on board.
Seeing the productivity of the garden and the Tayport apple juice project grow from year to year… and enjoying the produce!
Our MP, Wendy Chamberlain, and her local council party colleagues turning up for my Taking Care of Tayport guided walk to find out about local climate impacts and the actions we are taking as a community. The walk was based on our audio tour of Tayport which showcases the projects PLANT’s been involved in over the years. I hope they took away an inspiration to increase their commitments to implementing effective climate policies!
Getting involved in the madness of putting the Tayport Climate Festival together to highlight COP26 taking place in Glasgow, and seeing all of the wonderful people volunteering their input and showing off what we already do for climate locally, and then the crowds turning up to take part over the three fabulously sunny days. I loved the time we had with it at the Community Garden, but my favourite event was the wee concert that the talented Essa Flett put on for us at the Auld Kirk.
And then the incredible buzz in the room when we brought people together in Gregory Hall to reimagine what Tayport may be like in 2030 if we did everything we could to take action on climate and biodiversity crisis as a community. It was great to be able to put all the ideas we came up into a story for another audio walking tour of Tayport in 2030, in collaboration with Kathleen and the Cultivate project. We’ve managed to keep the buzz going and continue to explore ideas for the future through talks and discussions at the Tayport Climate Café.
So now, it is time for me to say goodbye. As of November, I will be working with SCCAN almost full time, continuing my role of Story Weaver and also taking lead on their Climate for Change project. And I’m sure volunteering to run our new Tayport Climate Cafe will easily take up the rest of the time! Please don’t hesitate to get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
But – I will do my best to continue sneaking into the garden to get away from my computer for a good natter and to give a hand with the growing of course!
PLANT will need some extra volunteer power to run its digital channels on Facebook, Instagram, website and blog, as well as this newsletter. So – if you, or anyone who you know may be able to help with any of it, get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org.